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Thursday, 7 May 2015

Arguably every parent would love to see their kids grow into the kind of people who give back to society.

But how can we instill charitable principles at a young age? Is talking about giving back enough, or is being a role model more effective? No need to guess; thankfully, a recent study tackled that exact question. In 2013, the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy followed 903 children over two periods of time: 2002-2003 and 2007-2008. It found that role modeling (i.e. volunteering or sending checks to charity while your child looks on) isn't as effective as discussing giving back. In fact, children whose parents spoke to them about giving were20 percent more likely to be charitable as adults than children with parents who only role-modeled.

The study also found that almost all children (nine out of ten) give to charity in some way, and that girls and boys are equally likely to give money, but females are more likely to volunteer than males.

So how can parents inspire charitable tendencies in their children?

Prioritize caring for others 

If you were faced with the choice, would you rather your child get a perfect grade on a test or be a kind person to his or her classmates?

Harvard University psychologist Richard Weissbourd spoke to The Washington Post in July 2014 and said it's important for children to balance others' needs with their own. How do you do this? By making sure your child is always respectful to others and stress the importance of being kind over being happy.

Create opportunities to be generous

Try scheduling a volunteer event for the whole family. Call your local Chamber of Commerce and inquire about the next street cleanup day, or ask about an event where you and your family could help out. Positive charitable experiences as a child can help your little one feel inspired to give as an adult.

Embrace gratitude

The more thankful you feel for those who help you, the more likely you'll help others. Weissbourd recommended parents make the practice of gratitude a daily ritual (at the dinner table, in the car, etc.) and only reward acts of uncommon kindness (i.e. don't go overboard when your child does little things to help out around the house).

Start at home

Charity doesn't always have to be directed to major organizations. It can start in your kitchen. Dr. Paul Donahue spoke with The Saturday Early Show on CBS about how parents can ask their children to help out around the house, be it with preparing a meal or helping siblings with homework.

Teach sharing

At the most basic level, sharing is charity. Children can learn a lot when they allow a friend or family member use their favorite toy for an evening. Start teaching the importance of sharing early. This one can be difficult to master, especially for young kids, but the more you normalize the behavior, the more your kids are likely to enjoy the feeling of giving.

Focus on your child's interests

Think about what your child cares about the most, like playing a sport or a pet animal. Make a small list and talk to them about how they can make a difference. Writer Karen Cheney from Parents Magazine offers baseball as an example. If your daughter loves the game, encourage her to save pocket change over time and then donate it to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. This can be done with any number of child-friendly interests and can make the act of giving that much more personal.

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